figures in white dresses comb back their long hair,
revealing their faces. It is like watching curtains
slowly part on lives that have been hidden away
These women were consigned to an asylum in the
1940s. Set in a hair salon within the same
institution four decades on, The Idiot Colony is a
record of grinding frustration and fleeting
tenderness. As the women have their hair done to
the crackle of a radio, their memories play out in
a series of flashbacks.
One of them was locked away for her "dirty mind":
she had an affair with a black American GI while
her husband was off fighting. The second had a baby
after being raped as a girl. The third never speaks
- she has a befuddled otherworldliness about her -
but there is a delicate hint that she may have
loved another woman.
Directed by Andrew Dawson, this carefully
choreographed production brings to life the
sterile, regimented existence of the hospital,
where time drips away like a leaky tap. A bored
doctor asks pointless questions. A woman sits
disconsolately in a tub while nurses scrub her back
- a picture of lovelessness.
But RedCape Theatre's play is not unrelentingly
bleak. It is often luminous to look at, as the
three women sway back and forth between the
litheness of youth and the dashed hopes of old age.
A particularly ravishing sequence involving a wet
towel makes you think of swimming under a
If the show slides at times toward the mawkish, you
forgive it because it also has a sly sense of fun.
There is a sexy tingle to the scenes where one of
the women is again entwined with her lover in her
imagination. This is one to catch before it slips